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Life with Computers

Computers and technology are a keen interest of mine. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to computers at a young age. I spent hours and hours on an old TI-99/4A cartridge/tape game console which my grandmother had. This machine stored data on audio tapes. The data was retrieved by connecting the console via an audio cable to any common tape player and playing the tape. I don't recall a single time I was ever able to get the TI to retrieve data off tapes reliably.

In second grade, I started using my first floppy disk based machine, the Apple II. Like the TI, I mainly used these machines to play games and write small BASIC programs. Around that time, my parents also bought our first computer: an IBM AT clone with MSDOS 3.0. Although I used the machine frequently, at that time in my life, I was most assuredly an Apple fanatic at heart.

When I started becoming more serious about computers, I spent most of my time using the black & white Apple Macintoshes with the built in monitors: first the Mac Plus, then SE, and SE/30. Around 1991, my family finally purchased a computer I could call my own; it was a Mac IIsi. By this time, I had begun programming in Pascal, was a fairly proficient user of ResEdit (a great powertool which unfortunately hasn't been updated in over half a decade), and liked to dabble in MacBugs. By this time, I had just enough experience and all the proper tools to seriously damage my computer, but little experience as which parts of a computer don't mind being modified and which parts will cause you to lose everything. Those years were definitely a learning experience. :-)

I was first exposed to the online world around 1988 as a subscriber to Prodigy (at the time, a joint venture between Sears and IBM). After I got my Mac, I dropped Prodigy and joined AOL (it was a lot cooler back then. I signed up with the screen name leonardc9, which I still use for AIM today!). I was amazed by the modem; it allowed me to communicate with people all around the US and Canada. I loved the fact that I could communicate as an adult and never as just a eleven or twelve year old child. For me, it was The Great Equalizer. Around that same time, I decided to create my own Electronic Bulletin Board System (BBS) named "The Public BBS" for lack of a better name. Like a mini-AOL, a BBS was a computer system that people dialed up to with their modems and communicated with one another, played games, or exchanged files. At its peak, it had about 200 users. A weekly San Jose newspaper called The Metro wrote an article about The Public BBS in 1992. My friend Larry Leung also found some old newsgroup postings made in 1994.

In the years since, I've slowly migrated over to mainly using PCs. This was borne primarily from growing frustration over the increasing stability problems in Apple's operating system software (the System 7.5 lineage was especially notorious), cost of hardware, and the lack of software. I currently use a mixture of FreeBSD, Linux, and Windows at home.